Monster wines are quite refined

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      One of the myriad things presently occupying my time, along with writing this column and talking on the radio three times a day, is conducting tastings of B.C. VQA wines from around the province.

      One of the ways I introduce the amazing upsurge in B.C. wineries is by telling the assembled that when I arrived in Vancouver, there were four wineries in this province; now there are 220, give or take a couple.

      Today we’ll focus on Monster Vineyards: the Penticton-based label “came to life in 2006 with the release of its first vintage”, to quote sales and marketing director Laurie Barnes. But somehow it was only a few weeks ago that the label first came to my attention, so here are some tasting notes for four of the current releases.

      There’s a corporate connection with the Poplar Grove winery, but in 2012 the Monster wines were moved to their new home at the gateway to the Naramata Bench, with a winery and tasting room at 1010 Tupper Avenue in Penticton.

      Four varietals make up the current release, all under $20. While they may be called Monsters, the wines are actually quite refined, subtle even.

      Prices indicated are at the winery; I haven’t seen the wines in my neighbourhood stores yet. See

      Monster Riesling 2011 ($17.90)
      Very fresh and apple-y, fruity but not floral, a fine anytime, all-the-time sipping Riesling that nonetheless would seem to suit the winery’s suggestion of “scallop and apricot ceviche, accompanied by a fresh white tomato salsa”, whatever that is. It’s a good ’n’ hearty gulper.

      Monster Rose 2012 ($17.90)
      This announces itself with a pungent raspberry nose, morphing into full and fresh cranberry fruit and a tangy finish. Mostly Merlot (85 percent), with the balance being Malbec. For food, for sure; just the ticket for summer sipping on the deck.

      Monster Merlot 2011($19.90)
      For my taste, this is the least successful of the four. Oh, it’s perfectly all right, but the grassy nose, strong tannins, and acidic finish mean it definitely requires food. They say its big structure is enough to handle even the “biggest burger”. It’s a curious blend: 92 percent Merlot, three percent Cabernet Sauvignon, three percent Malbec, and two percent Cabernet Franc, with a solid 13 percent alcohol. While I’m lukewarm on the Merlot, I have to say I love the next one.

      Monster Cabs 2011($19.90)
      The reason it’s Cabs plural is it’s a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, to the tune of 48 percent, and Cabernet Franc (28 percent), as well as 18 percent Merlot and the balance made up of Malbec. Good weight, lots of berries, with a touch of dark chocolate and a deep, long finish; an excellent wine and good value. While all four wines are ready to drink now, the Cabs might get even better with a year or two of bottle age. Definitely a carnivore’s dinner companion.

      A couple of wines at random… 

      St. Hubertus Oak Bay Gewurztraminer 2011($16.75)
      If you haven’t yet discovered the excellent-value wines of St. Hubertus’s Oak Bay label, start here with this classic, lovely Gewürz: dry but still full of fresh, ripe fruit. The floral aspects are lighter than what you may have previously encountered: this is made very much in the food-focused Alsatian style. The back label suggests “green chicken curry, cedar-planked salmon with an orange-pistachio crust”. I want somebody to make me some of that, and now!

      St. Hubertus Dry Riesling 2012($15.75)
      All modesty aside, the back label proclaims, “this is possibly the perfect white wine,” and they’ll get no argument from me. A fine picnic wine with some very gentle floral notes, plus honey, green apple, and lime. The aforementioned green curry would suit this to a T, too.

      Township 7 Reserve 7 Meritage 2009 ($34.99, 118 cases made)
      Rich or what? Luscious and intense, this “classic Bordeaux-style blend” is a special-occasion red, showing lots of caramel and cherries. There’s also some Christmas spice in the bold flavour mix, which is primarily Cab Sauv. The back label alerts you to the fact that it’s had 22 months of oak aging and is unfiltered, so “please decant.” A stunner; despite its age, it will keep a couple more years, easily.